Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pedal Powered Poop Hauler

When you camp for more than a few days without sewer hook-up, it's a good investment to have a portable dump tank.  However, I always feel a little funny and guilty when I hook my little 15 gallon tank to the back of my big pick-up truck to tow it to the nearest dumping station...
The sheer contrast in size looks rather ridiculous.  Furthermore, burning all this gas for such a small task seemed like such as waste.  This past memorial day weekend, as I was sitting outside my camper drinking a cold beer (which is when I do some of my best thinking),  I pondered this conundrum of a 15 gallon tank being pulled by 1/2 ton pick-up and had myself a bit of an aha moment.

When I got home, I found a piece of aluminum flat bar hanging around the garage and after a few grips in the vice, banging with the hammer, cutting with the hack saw and filing everything smooth, I made myself a little adaptor to go on my bike...
which transformed my bike into a "Pedal Powered Poop Hauler"...
No more looking ridiculous!!!

No more burning gas!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cycling Seattle - The Culture

For those of you who've been following this blog over the last few weeks, it is no secret that I recently visited Seattle.

I've had a few weeks to ponder that epic adventure. Seattle forever changed my view of the term "bicycle friendly".

There were hooks on the light rail for hanging your bike.

There racks on the buses for mounting your bike.

There were storage lockers for keeping your bike safe.

There were bike racks on every side of every block for securing your bike.

There were bike paths exclusively for you to ride your bike.

There were bike sharrows to protect your right to ride a bike on the road.

There were signs to direct you where to ride your bike.

All of these things were strange and wonderful to behold. Yet I would maintain that these were not the things that made my jaw drop the lowest. It was something more intangible...more subtle...far more powerful.

I spent nigh on 12 hours in the saddle in Seattle and during that time...

I was not honked at once.

I was never cut off.

I was never yelled at to get of the !(-/@&$ road.

When the bike path crossed a road, cars stopped for me.

When I was taking up the lane, cars went around me.

When I came upon pedestrians on a narrow bridge, they leaned over the edge to let me pass.

It was all about the culture. No single group claimed ownership of the roads. Everybody: Cars...Bikes...Buses...Cabs...Pedestrians...They all Coexisted in perfect harmony.

You can't legislate that into existence.

You can't infrastructure that into being.

It's something that is slow and imperceptible, but real.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Unbelievable Ride

Due to travel and family responsibilities, I hadn't been on my road bike and done any serious miles in more than a month. This past weekend would be the weekend that I would change that injustice.

I came home from work Friday evening and made it perfectly clear to my wife that Saturday I was going on an 80 mile ride starting on the West side of the James River Bridge, riding up to the Surry ferry and crossing over to Jamestown, taking the Colonial Parkway through Williamsburg to Yorktown and finally traveling the back roads of York County home. As you can see, I had it all planned out. Then - my phone rang and I was obligated to go to work Saturday morning.

I didn't get home until around 1:30 on Saturday afternoon. Maybe the 80 miler was out of the question, but I was hell bent on getting some riding in. I ran in the house, pulled on the Lycra, grabbed a couple water bottles and headed out to my garage. I reached for my road bike and wouldn't you know it, the rear wheel was flat. Not to be that easily thwarted, I grabbed one of two spare tubes from my saddle bag and made short order of that flat.  Prior to leaving I made several command decisions.  First, I decided to leave the camera home, cause I was going to ride hard and won't planning on stopping to take any pics.    Second, I was leaving that dad-gum cell phone at home as well.

I pedaled away. It felt good to be riding. No camera - no cell phone - no stress. It was just me and my bike. I was free. I was independent. I was in control of my own destiny - until - I noticed that the rear of my bike felt a bit soft. I looked at my rear wheel and, much to my chagrin, it was flat.

Even with this set back, I did not lose heart. I had another spare tube. With well rehearsed motions, I quickly changed the flat and, using my CO2 charger, with a two second blast pumped up the tire to 100 psi.  One second later, the tire was flatter than before, thanks to the separation of my valve stem from the tube. It was at this point that utter despair began to gnaw at my innards. Here I was. 15 miles from home. No more tubes. No patch kit. No cell phone.

I was about a half mile from a main arterial road. With bike in tow, I clip clopped toward it in search of a pay phone.  I found not one, but two phone booths. I shouldn't have been surprised to find them both missing that essential piece of equipment that makes a phone booth a phone booth, a phone.   My grasp of control grew tenuous at best.

It was at this, my darkest hour, that I noticed the city bus sign. I rummaged through my saddle bag and to my utter joy, found my stash of emergency money. A few minutes later, the bus happened along. I put my bike on the front rack and climbed aboard. As I surveyed my fellow travelers, I immediately ascertained that I was the only person on the bus wearing spandex. Judging by the look on their faces, I appeared to be the only person to ever ride that bus wearing spandex. I took my seat and kept a weary eye on my bike. I expected at any moment to watch it bounce off the rack and hear the crunching sound of carbon fiber as it passed swiftly under where I sat. It would be the coup de grace.

When I finally pushed my lame steed into my driveway, I took care of the essential business first.   I reached into my frig and took out a cold beer.  Then I sat back and took the time to ponder a truly unbelievable ride, which did have one high point - I learned how to use the city bus, bike rack.  Too bad I didn't have a camera to record it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Commuting Week in Pics - 5/16 - 5/20/2011

The Surly ready to go...
A view over different bars...
An early morning flat...
The Surly and anti-aircraft guns...
The James River Bridge under God's spotlight...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cycling Seattle - Day 3

My conference ended around 4:00 PM and I ventured back to my room, looked out my window and got the first glimpse of the day. To my surprise and utter joy, the sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. Without a moment to lose I ripped of my business attire and donned my cycling gear. I grabbed my bike and headed outdoors.

Earlier I studied the Seattle Bike Map and discovered what looked like a good long trail in the Northeast part of the city. It was gonna be a bit tricky to get there so I scribbled a few directions on a scrap of paper and tucked it in my jersey.

I rode once again down to the waterfront, hopped on the Elliot Bay Trail, took the Ballard Bridge across the Salmon Bay and soon found myself on the Burke-Gilman Trail.  I was not alone.  The trail was teeming with activity.  There were tons of people walking, lounging under trees, sitting in the sun, on park benches, kayaking in the adjacent Lake Washington Ship Channel, rowing teams out practicing and bikes - my goodness - there were bikes of all descriptions, ridden by all manner of mankind.  There were so many bikes, going in different directions and traveling at different speeds that I really had to pay close attention to what was ahead and behind.  I was in my first ever, bicycle rush hour and loving every second of it.
I rode this trail for as long as time would permit me, but not nearly as long as I really wanted.

On my way back, I rounded a sharp curve in the trail and was struck with awe by what I saw...

The mountain that had alluded me since I've been in Seattle.  The mountain that I rode in a car 100 miles to see, but never saw.  There she was - all white and majestic - dwarfing everything in the city.  To think - she was only a bike ride away!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Ride I'm Glad I Never Took

Mount Rainier is only 100 miles from Seattle. Desiring to see this mountain up close, an associate and I decided to jump in his rental car and drive over. I toyed with the idea of throwing the Bike Friday in the back and doing a little riding when we got there. I thought it would be cool to say that I rode Mount Rainier. It would also make for some awesome pictures on this blog.

It was an overcast day, so we didn't see the mountain for the entire trip, up to and including when we arrived at the entrance to the Mount Rainier National Park. Paying the park entry fee, we drove on toward the visitor center which is located at an elevation of around 5000 feet. Mount Rainer itself reaches just under 15,000 feet. As we drove up, you can imagine my surprise when I actually saw a small patch of snow on the side of the road. Imagine that, it's May and there's still snow on the ground.

By the time we reached the visitor center, I was glad that I didn't bother taking my bike. The reasons for such an unexpected response from someone who loves riding his bike are as follows:
- the temperature plummeted nearly 20 F from when we left Seattle and was bumping up against the freezing mark.
- the visibility was a mere 40 feet.
- the snow, well it is best explained in the below pics...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cycling Seattle - Day 2

After my hugely successful ride on Day 1 in Seattle, I pushed my bike out of the motel on Day 2 with a lot more confidence, a little better idea of where I was going and excited about what I would discover.  On my first day I explored the Northern part of the city.  On this day I would venture to West Seattle.

Studying a bicycle map on-line, I concluded that there was a bike path that would take me to the West Seattle Low Level Bridge where I could ride over the river.  I rode from the motel down, down, down to the waterfront and sure enough found the bike path which I confidently took to the South.  I rode for a mile or so before I discovered that the trail was closed due to road construction.  However, my dear readers, do not lose heart.  I am in Seattle, and wouldn't you know it, they have bike detour signs that take me on an alternate path around the construction.  Can you believe it - BIKE DETOUR SIGNS - How cool is that???

The road leading up to the Low level Bridge was lined bumper to bumper with Semis making their way to the shipping terminal. 
As I approached the intersection of the bike path and the never ending line of trucks, they miraculously stopped and allowed me to cross.  There was no light giving me the right of way.  There was no crossing guard directing traffic.  All there were was a bunch of courteous truck drivers willing to share the road with me, a measly bike rider.  To say that I am not use to such royal treatment is an understatement of astronomical proportions.

I reached the bridge and there was a nice, safe separated bike path to lead me across.  Upon reaching the opposite shore, I simply followed the signs for the Alki trail.
The Alki Trail took me on a pleasant and scenic path around the entire perimeter of the West Seattle peninsula.
After navigating the perimeter of West Seattle, I ventured inward on the peninsula and climbed (another major understatement) to get a birds eye view of downtown Seattle.
After enjoying the view, I flew downhill and made my way back to the motel which once again entailed a nut buster climb.  I was starting to get the hang of this city thing!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cycling Seattle - Day 1

I arrived in Seattle in the early afternoon on Saturday. I took the light rail from the airport to the downtown area. I exited the light rail station and was faced with a 3 block walk uphill to the motel. This proved to be a bit of a task hauling more than 70 lbs of luggage, including my Bike Friday, safely tucked away in the Samsonite F'lite 30 suitcase.

My first order of business was to unpack the bike and ready her for riding. However, not being familiar with Seattle and having never actually ridden in a big city, I decided to take a walk and do a little recon. The traffic was bumper to bumper and I have to admit I was more than a bit intimidated. I decided to skip riding on this first day and just explore the city on foot.

The next morning, I was up early and out for a ride.  It was cold and a light rain was falling.  I rode down to the waterfront...
I rode North from there and found a bike path.  Which, by the way, is not hard to do in Seattle. 
That path was near the space needle, so I took a little detour into town to get a closer look...

Making my way back to the bike path, I continued riding it which took me around a commercial fishing yard, through a rail yard and past a marina until it finally ended with a spectacular view across and up the Puget Sound...
Turning around, I made my way back to the downtown area.  By this time the city had awakened and was bustling with activity.  I spent some time riding and exploring downtown Seattle.  I wandered through the Pike Place Market and found the original Starbucks...
After half a day a riding. It was time to make my way back to motel, the only thing that stood between the motel and I was 7 blocks of a nut-buster climb...
This was the first time in my life that I was actually praying to miss the lights, so that I could take a little break and catch my breath.  It was also the first time in my life that every light turned green just as I reached it.  Cute God - real cute!

I finally made it back to the motel and hung my clothes out to dry.  Sitting on the edge of my bed, I was a bit tired, but felt good. I was glad that earlier that morning, when faced with the cold and the rain, I resisted the urge to turn around and head back to my room. I was cold and I got wet, but I had an awesome ride, through an amazing city.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cycling Affair Quiz - Question #1

You may be having a "Cycling Affair" if...

Your idea of a tender moment is sitting on a bike seat the morning after eating spicy food.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Phantom on a Bike

I was climbing on my bike about to head home for the day. It was late, the sun was starting to set, the light was fading fast. It was at this moment that I saw the ghost of a man dressed in leather knickers, wearing a Flat Cap and riding a vintage tricycle. The bike looked like a trike version of a penny farthing with two big wheels in the front and a small wheel in the back.

I knew it was a ghost cause people don't dress like that nowadays and they don't ride those kind of bikes. If these indicators weren't enough to convince me that this was an apparition, the fact that he rode right through the iron bars of the fence surrounding the place I work without missing a pedal stroke removed all doubt.
I was just about to take off after him to get a closer look and maybe chat a bit, when the unthinkable happened, I woke up. I frantically tried to force myself back to sleep that I might ride with this phantom of by gone years. Yet my efforts at slumber were all in vain.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

This Commuting Week in Pics - 4/25 - 4/29/11

My favorite flower...
He is risen...
The James River Bridge through the trees...
A storms obstruction...
Storm clouds giving way...